Perennial Wisdom - practical implementation

Personal habits and beliefs rooted in religion can serve as foundational principles for individuals. These principles often guide how individuals live their daily lives, make personal decisions, and engage with others. Many religious traditions provide a moral and ethical framework that influences personal behaviour, relationships, and lifestyle choices. In an environment where most people one meets practice their faith similarly, this may not confront a believer with contradictions in their own behaviour or assumptions.

The challenge arises when individuals navigate the translation of their personal religious principles into the public sphere. People often encounter diverse belief systems and secular values in modern, pluralistic societies. Balancing personal religious convictions with the principles of a secular, inclusive public space can be complex. Questions about the role of religion in shaping public policy, education, and societal norms become central to these discussions.

My own experience was that my conviction moved me to become a nurse, but on entering that field, I found that many assumptions I heard in the religious environment I was used to were not viable in my profession. I had to overcome what I discovered to be exclusive policies and expand my perspective of possible outlooks on life. I also noticed how other members of the religious environment were unwilling to make the same adjustments I found necessary, which led to my leaving that environment.

With time, I found a comparative study of religious traditions to have basic ideas, which I then found constituted a perennial philosophy, such as described by Aldous Huxley in his book of the same name. Perennial wisdom posits that essential truths are common to Humankind and can be found across diverse cultures and belief systems. It emphasises the commonality of core principles that underlie different religious and philosophical traditions. The term “perennial” implies that this wisdom is not bound by the constraints of a specific historical period and remains relevant across generations. It suggests that these insights are not subject to obsolescence and continue to provide guidance over time.

Perennial wisdom also emphasises the importance of direct and personal experience in uncovering these timeless truths. It suggests that individuals can access profound insights through contemplation, meditation, or spiritual practices. Prominent examples of perennial wisdom can be found in the works of mystics, philosophers, and spiritual teachers from various traditions, including Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and others. It may include teachings on compassion, love, self-awareness, and the interconnectedness of all existence.

Working as a nurse confronted me with existential experiences of life and obviously challenged me concerning my religious principles. Perennial wisdom can offer valuable insights and guidance in the nursing profession in several ways. Above all, perennial wisdom emphasises compassion, empathy, and the interconnectedness of all life. These principles inspire caregivers to approach their patients with deep understanding and empathy in nursing, fostering a more compassionate and supportive healthcare environment.

Perennial wisdom encourages a holistic understanding of individuals, acknowledging the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit, as well as their relationships and environment. In nursing, adopting a holistic approach can lead to more comprehensive patient care that considers physical health alongside emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Many traditions also address the nature of suffering and provide insights into coping mechanisms. Nurses, who often deal with patients facing illness, pain, and loss, can find solace and guidance in perennial wisdom teachings that explore the nature of suffering and offer strategies for emotional and spiritual support.

We also find the importance of being present in the moment and cultivating mindfulness in nursing. Being fully present with patients can enhance the quality of care and communication. Mindfulness practices can also help manage stress and maintain a sense of calm amid challenging situations. Perennial wisdom also advocates for self-awareness and self-care. In the demanding field of nursing, embracing practices that promote personal well-being, resilience, and balance can contribute to sustained professional effectiveness and prevent burnout.

Lastly, perennial wisdom often includes ethical principles that transcend specific cultural or religious contexts. These principles can inform ethical decision-making in nursing, providing a foundation for values such as integrity, justice, and compassion.

I suppose I should be grateful that I haven’t been bombed until now.

What is missing is the provocation, probably. I have named one practical implementation of perennial wisdom. Do you think there are others?

I have the suspicion that most people don’t even know what I am talking about because the focus is generally on criticising the Abrahamic religions, with the Eastern traditions coming away in a better light. Aldous Huxley mixed them up, drawing from the mystical writers of Abrahamic religions, comparing them with Eastern traditions, and seeing a large comparison in their practices or habits.

A very insightful post - thanks for sharing.

This really resonated with me. It emphasizes within a conviction to recognize and speak to truth - as to navigate life well, often demands strong bearings.

On meditation:

Reality is abundant.
There is so much space to process.
Being still and focusing on small sections at a time helps.
Wisdom can be drawn from deep reflection of one’s environment.

On timeless underlying wisdom:

I agree that most traditions / belief systems have universal truths [‘perennial wisdom’] embedded within.
Wisdom is empowering and gives us tools to utilize when seeking resolve to tests / challenges we arrive it.
Truth is solid and will not collapse beneath one’s feet.
It gives us a platform to leap for greater heights.

I wish for our empowerment, yet I fear it can be undermined.
A structure with truth that has falsehood tethered between risks collapse -
with the ratio of falsehood increasing the possibility.
The truth will remain untarnished within the debris, but the falsehoods will crumble.

I wish people the power of truth as refined as able.
Yet with compassion, not wish anyone’s collapse.
Perhaps a slow & steady descent from that tower -
yet we get to keep the treasure of jewels.

On Abrahamic religions:

The bad wrap they get in comparison Eastern traditions / belief systems, is that many followers of Abrahamic religions are led awry.
Many prominent practicers engage in actions that highly questionable in the name of their beliefs.
I haven’t been exposed to many instances of people being condemned, proselytized or attacked in the name of Buddha.
There is value within, but their reputations have been tarnished - particularly in the west, where they are prominent.

Judaism, although the promises first given to Abraham have an all-peoples perspective, has its roots in the same “east” as the rest of the eastern religions.

And Buddhism has undergone much cultural adaptation to make it more palatable to other cultures. Not all that adaptation was very friendly… or faithful to the original teachings.

There are commonalities shared between all cultures/religions. Let’s call those “essentials”. What a culture/religion considers essential, in such a way that criticizes other cultures/religions/denominations who don’t consider it essential — those are things that need to be worked out with conflict resolution skills. If the essentials violate self=other, some muckety-muck or group of muckety-mucks is exploiting the system & won’t likely relinquish the narrative to public dialogue and scrutiny.

You are very welcome. I see you’ve been around for some time but we haven’t interacted – or am I wrong?

I would say that it is a conviction to follow the evidence in order to ascertain truth so that we can navigate as well as we can, taking our bearings from time-tested experience.

Do you meditate? I started at first with MBSR but adapted my practice with time. My experience was that finding a kind of respite from the incessant noise in my head was liberating and assisted me in attending better to existential questions, but also in avoiding distractions. After all, outside there is also a persistent noise that seems to distract large portions of society.

I think that truths, when we find them, are of different characteristics. There are situative truths, dependent upon the circumstances we find ourselves in, and there are the broader truths that cover a wider range of situations. It must be seen whether they are universal because our perceptions are distinctly restricted to what we know. Our language reveals our dependency upon metaphor, and so I am reticent about how much we know, which, I am told is wisdom.

Empowerment, as in becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life or even claiming one’s rights, is an awarded or enabled authority or power, whether given from some higher authority or given in the course of maturation. It is also given within a framework, which we see clearly when we talk about human rights, which may or not be acknowledged by political leaders. This means that empowerment is circumstantial and we must live with a degree of dependency, which is where humility and compassion plays a role.

The “bad wrap” is an unfortunate exclusivism, which makes the Abrahamic religions antagonistic. The mystical branches of these religions tend to be more agreeable, which may come from a non-dual perspective. Buddhists are still prone to violence despite condemning violence in every form. Ahimsa, a term meaning ‘not to injure’, is a primary virtue in Buddhism, but In Southeast Asia, Thailand has had several prominent virulent Buddhist monastic calls for violence. In the 1970s, nationalist Buddhist monks like Phra Kittiwuttho argued that killing communists did not violate any of the Buddhist precepts.

Though most Buddhists do not proselytise, they have no qualms about sharing facts about Buddhism when asked to elaborate by others. Though proselytising is generally frowned upon and goes against Buddhist teachings, it is not rigidly prohibited, and Buddhism does not tend to have a strict list of taboos. Western Buddhists I have known have sent me brochures inviting me to join their Sangha.

The composition of the Bible, as we are coming to realise, was an intelligent and successful attempt to form a national narrative and essentially to overcome the need for the temple or even a state. That is why, in the end, the Jews were successful in the Diaspora, because they could continue their tradition in the synagogues that were already around at the time of Jesus. It came about due to a resounding defeat and deportation, although the tale of the ten tribes assimilated is probably legendary or even fiction. The southern kingdom stole much of its “history” from the northern kingdom but incorporated the tales into a joint narrative.

I also believe that the teaching attributed to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount has its roots in the East, and even the older concept of Monotheism may also come from there. This makes the claim of exclusivity that the church has enforced at the cost of so many lives even more ridiculous, and the antagonist role that Abrahamic religions still play today is not outweighed by the good that has also been achieved. Many of the beneficial aspects of Christianity throughout history were achieved despite the church and at personal risk rather than through the church.

The book Aldous Huxley put together acknowledges the mystical traditions as more likely to align with Eastern traditions despite the cultural influence that formed them. In Germany, a protestant pastor put two similar books together, showing that we are all not that far apart when it comes to the sacred. Recently, Iain McGilchrist, in his book “The Matter With Things,” showed how it has to do with the makeup of our brain functions and different ways of attending to life. Unfortunately, as he showed, the more narrowly focused attention tends to dominate, and the broader perspective, which is expressed in the humanities, and, is in fact more socially competent, is pushed aside. It is also why various forms of strict, literal interpretation of scripture are so militant.